To (pre)serve the nation

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Courchene, Ryan
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This thesis examines the history and strategic importance of maintaining a regional presence for Canada’s national archives (Library and Archives Canada/LAC). If the national archives of a large federation, such as Canada, is to preserve the archival records of the Government of Canada, it must be equal to the task of providing access to records that reflect the complex and diverse character of the country and the decentralized structure of its governing institutions. Provision of archival services for Canadian federal government records is the responsibility of LAC. These records are not only created in Ottawa but in federal offices across the country. LAC requires a similar nationwide presence to ensure that every citizen of Canada has a relatively equal opportunity to access these archival records. Thus, LAC has had, since the 1980s, regional offices in various Canadian cities. These offices are responsible for federal records created in their particular region. These offices have played limited roles overall in providing LAC’s services to federal agencies and the public. At its peak, there were nine regional offices. Budget restraints have caused the closure of six. There are offices now only in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Halifax. At the same time, however, LAC is planning to increase the visibility of its remaining offices and their ability to provide LAC services. This thesis is being written at a time of great change and promise for LAC’s regional offices. The thesis will look at the reasons for, and the development of, the national presence of LAC in these offices and what their future may be like, particularly in the digital age. The thesis argues that a national presence for a national archives is not only important in Canada but in all nations, and especially in large ones like Canada. Even in a digital age, it is necessary to have a physical presence across the entire nation.